The Sky Bet Championship is the second tier on the English football pyramid and, undoubtedly, one of the toughest and most exciting leagues in the world.
Every year, 24 teams – comprising of 18 from the previous season, the three relegated Premier League clubs and three promoted sides from League One – play each other twice, with the top two after 46 games apiece gaining automatic promotion to the top-flight and the bottom three relegated to the third tier.
Meanwhile, the teams who finish between third and sixth place advance through to the Play-Offs, where third faces sixth and fourth takes on fifth in a two-legged knockout contest.
The aggregate winners prevail and lock horns with each other at Wembley in what has been described as the £120-million game for the financial rewards on offer to the team that triumph.
On a day of fantastic entertainment where the full range of emotions are on show, it is pure ecstasy for the winners and the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best teams in the country, while it is total heartbreak for the losers, whose hard work counts for nothing and they have to start from scratch once again the following season.
Formed in 2004, unlike most leagues around the globe where there is a clear divide between the title challengers, mediocre or mid-table teams and survival battlers, the Championship is very unique for that not being the case at all.
The three teams relegated from the previous year’s Premier League tend to be among the favourites for an instant return, along with those who narrowly missed out on reaching the top-flight last time around, while the three clubs promoted from League 1 are, more often than not, aiming to establish their status in the second tier.
However, in general, all 24 teams set out for the new season with the ultimate ambition of gaining promotion to the top-flight of English football.
Sometimes, the margins between the teams can be so small that all the drama comes right down to the wire and their fates can be decided on the final day of the campaign, whether it be winning the title, promotion, reaching or missing out on the play-offs, securing survival or being condemned to relegation.
On the other hand, a single team’s dominance throughout a season can also be a joy to watch and still generate plenty of interest in the Championship – Reading, Newcastle United and Leicester City have all surpassed the 100-point mark when storming to the title in 2006, 2010 and 2014 respectively.
The fairytale story of Leicester going on to win the Premier League in just their second season back shows that anything is possible once you reach the top-flight, meaning that all 24 teams will be buoyed on even more in the future – knowing that it could be any one of them following in the Foxes’ footsteps a couple of years down the line.
Overall, with excitement and nail-biting drama guaranteed right up until the last kick of the ball, the Sky Bet Championship is a league that simply cannot afford to be missed.